Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


(1712-1778) Sociopolitical theorist; a major figure of the Enlightenment.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau regarded true religion as natural to humanity, unless corrupted by society. Christianity as described in the Gospels was regarded as true, simple, and sublime. However, according to Rousseau, Christianity severed the connection between religious and political authority. To provide a transcendent basis for political authority, Rousseau advocated "civil religion," which would not make specific theological claims but would provide the moral basis for citizenship. Private religions that did not contradict the demands of civil religion could be tolerated, but religions that provided for competing allegiances between God and temporal sovereignty "ought to be driven from the State."

Ted G. Jelen


J. J. Rousseau, Émile, or Education (London: Dent, 1911 [1762])

J. J. Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses (London: Dent, 1973 [1755, 1762]).

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